Courage of the Mexican Revolution: Adela Velarde Pérez, "La Adelita"

Earlier this year, my sister and I spoke about bringing to life a campaign that honored women. We centered women like our mother, our tias, our abuelas and the many women like them who have come before us and paved the way. We knew that we wanted to highlight women who have all been presented with many challenges but through it all had remained resilient.

When it came down to putting together a campaign, we decided to recreate images of resilient women and to shared their stories. As you read through the stories of the resilient women we selected, we hope that they inspire you and serve as a mirror and reminder of the strength you possess. Feel free to share these stories and support our shop, Cadena Collective. We are able to do this work because of your continued support. THANK YOU!



ADELA VELARDE PÉREZ

You may be familiar with the famous “Adelitas”, they are known as the women who fought alongside men in the Mexican Revolution. But did you know there is a woman behind the nickname? Her name was Adela Velarde Pérez born on September 8, 1900 in Chihuahua, México. She was said to be friendly, bold, brave, and smart. At just 13 years old, she became part of “La Cruz Blanca” where she learned medical skills against her father’s wishes. Even without the support of her father she ignored his oppositions and left to pursue her desire to become a nurse. When she turned 15 years-old she joined the military and became a nurse on the front lines. There, alongside other women her responsibility was to care for those wounded in action and to engage in combat when the men needed help. These women were known as the “soldaderas”. As her story came to light, the women previously referred to as “soldaderas” would go on to be nicknamed “Adelitas”.

Throughout her service during the Mexican Revolution, she had the attention of the soldiers but she repeatedly turned down their advances and focused on the mission at hand. It wasn’t until years later that she developed a relationship with Antonio Gil whom she’d have a child with. Unfortunately, she lost her boyfriend during a battle of the Mexican Revolution, and their child died during combat in World War II. Even after suffering these tragic losses she remained strong and resilient, she would go on to fight battles in Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Morelos, and Mexico City. Though her contributions to the Mexican Revolution were great in number, her story was forgotten about and her legacy lost in time. After the revolution she moved to Mexico City where she worked a typist.

Twenty years after the revolution Adela was recognized as a veteran, but it wasn’t until sixty years after the revolution that she would formally receive recognition and a pension for her service. At age 65, she met and married Coronel Alfredo Villegas whom she’d share the rest of her days with. Adela Velarde Pérez died in 1971 and was laid to rest in San Felipe Cemetery in Del Rio, Texas.

Long after the revolution, “Adelitas” were depicted as hyper-sexualized versions of the women who fought in the revolution. After the conflict these veterans returned home to fulfill societal norms, and their stories and contributions slowly forgotten. The colorful posters we see of beautiful women with braids and lipstick, gorgeous hair trailing down their arms with a beautiful smile are far from reality. These women gave their blood, sweat, and tears for their country. They were in battlefields alongside men, and holding multiple roles contributing to the cause. They dressed to be ready for anything, from cooking to aiding in the battlefield. Throughout Mexican history women have held key roles in medicine, as teachers, combatants, and leaders during conflicts that have contributed to the construction of the country. The resiliency and fighting spirit of them lives on as the country’s flag flies high.

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22 comments

I truly appreciate and love this historical story of our brave ancestors who set the path before us to be who we are meant to be; strong individuals with firm beliefs and an even stronger will to fight for what we believe in and stand for ……let’s not forget our brave and ancesters of our past….for our better future…..thank you!!!!

Anna Guerrero March 11, 2021

I m very interested In the history of ADELITAS, and you did a great service to tell this story, thank you.
However, weren t there enough pictures of real Adelitas and revolutionary women that you had to resort to sexualized pictures of models wearing “carrilleras” Mexican sombreros and bare midriffs?

See Alma March 14, 2021

Thank you for sharing this story. My grandmother was named Adela, therefore I was named Adelita ( Lita for short ). I heard here and there about La Adelitas.bit never with such detail. Thank you!

Adela Duncan March 11, 2021

Thank you for sharing this history! I had never known about this part of Mexican history. As an Afrocentric and Afro Latna woman, this is now a part of me too. I will be teaching this to my students.

Joanna Gipson March 11, 2021

Great story! Thank you for posting about it. I love to learn about our cultura. I’m from Navojoa, Sonora and I’m learning more and more about my ancestors and the Yaqui language they spoke. I will follow your page as a fan I have become.

Elsa Soto March 11, 2021
I thought her name was Petra Herrera? I would like more info. Thanks
Nonie Samano March 14, 2021

My grandfather came from Sinaloa, my grandmother, Ajuas Calientes. My mother in-law was named Adelaida, and my daughter Adelaida (Lita Perez) was her namesake. I come from a family of strong women. Thank you for the story.

Jesse Perez March 08, 2021

Thank you for this beautiful story ! Now I know where my Great Grandma and Mommy got there names from . Adela but my daughters middle name is Adelita!

Nickey Alvarado March 08, 2021

This histories need to be told over and over so that people do not forget where we come from and the struggles that we as “women” face to be who we are. Girls all over the world should know that our job is not easy, but it is possible.

Claudia Garcia March 08, 2021

Anyway you could send me the photo of the girl facing forward that you used in photo number 1? I am a artist in San Antonio Texas and would love to paint her!! Tr-entertainment@hotmail.com

Tony Rivera March 08, 2021

Ok would like to read more about so!deras n history.My daughter became a nurse with a BSN and a.Masters n Nursng Administration. She is so proud to b a Hispanic nursing instructor.

Pat Rubalcaba March 08, 2021

Would love to learn more..

Norma moreno March 08, 2021

Thank you for passing this on

Carmen Perez March 08, 2021

I have never seen those “hyper sexualized” pictures of Adelitas or soldaderas that you’re talking about. I was born and raised in Mexico City and the pictures of Adelitas we have always seen are those of the Casasola brothers photographic archives. It’s also inaccurate that they were forgotten. There is a corrido from the Mexican Revolution named “La Adelita” and it is still well known in Mexico, as part of our folklore and traditions. The Mexican Revolution is part of the national elementary and middle schools’ social studies and history curriculum, and I cannot imagine a single Mexican SS or history teacher not teaching their students about Las Adelitas and soldaderas.

Fabiola March 08, 2021

Great article I enjoyed reading it.

Vinnie Gómez March 08, 2021

Each day we walk out of our house we pass a poster we purchased in San Francisco years ago. I love the poster, but even after researching the topic, I knew very little about Adelitas, until I read your story. Providing an email, I could provide you a photo of the poster which speaks of historical photos. Lastly, tried to donate but after many entries it broke to a never ending blank screen with please wait & a swirling blue circle. Thank you for sharing.

Rubén Presiado March 07, 2021

Thank you for this.

Yvette Pompa March 07, 2021

Great article, thank you!!!! Where can I find out more about it? I am very interested in the subject and would like to learn more.

Atentamente,
Edgar Sotelo

Edgar Sotelo March 07, 2021

love knowing about women of history
Admiration.

Jesus Santillan March 07, 2021

Love this thank you

Adelita Cortez March 07, 2021

Looking forward to many stories like this one.Thanks for sharing!
Orgullosamente Mexicana!!!

Maria S. Rey March 07, 2021

My grandma she was a soldadera her and my grandfather was part of the Pancho Villa.
She died in 1931? And my grandfather around 40s.
Went Villa enter mexico city they decided stay dare never come back to homeland
Jalpa Zacatecas
They are buried in El Panteon Civil en Iztapalapa in Mexico city

Joe RUBALCAVA March 07, 2021

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